Would You Get a Microchip in Your Finger for Work?

Some employees at this Wisconsin company say yes.

July 26, 2017 5:00 am

On August 1, employees at a technology company in Wisconsin can choose to have a microchip the size of a grain of rice injected into their skin between their thumb and index finger. Once done, employees will be able to use it to swipe into the office building, pay for food in the cafeteria, anything requiring RFID technology.

More than 50 out of 80 employees at Three Squares Market have volunteered for this non-mandatory program, which is a partnership between Three Square Market and the Swedish company Biohax International. It is believed to be the first of its kind in the United States, though it has already been done at a Swedish company, Epicenter.

One software engineer, Sam Bengtson, said that in the future, this won’t be something that is “scoffed at so much” so it was an immediate yes right from the start. Other employees are more hesitant, even if they are excited about the technology.

Jon Krusell told The New York Times that he was leery of an implanted microchip, so instead he might get a ring with the chip in it.

The program raises a variety of privacy and health-related questions. The chips are “encrypted” but as Alessandro Acquisti, a professor of information technology and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College, told the Times, encrypted is a “pretty vague term” and could include products that are indeed hackable.

Another potential problem is that even though the technology is currently designed for one purpose, it could be used for another later on. Employers could start consensually or nonconsensually tracking bathroom or lunch breaks, for example.

Dr. Acquisti said that once the chips are implanted, it’s very hard to predict or stop widening the range of use, but Todd Westby, the chief executive of Three Square, emphasized to the Times that their chip’s capabilities are limited.

However, health concerns are more difficult to assess. Though the implantable radio-frequency transponder system, the chips’ technical name, was approved by the FDA in 2004for medical uses, there have been times where the implantation site can become infected or the chip may migrate through the body.

For now, the employees at Three Square are mostly positive about the chips.

“We are a technology company, when all is said and done, and they’re excited about it,” Wahlin said to the Times. “They see this as the future.”

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